Most entrepreneurs understand the need for annual strategic planning, but the long, arduous process often leads to procrastination.
Laura Posey — the Simple Planning Specialist — explains exactly how to create a concise yearly business plan.
In this episode we discuss:
Host: Josh Fonger
Guest: Laura Posey
Please Note: The following is a computer auto-generated transcript and will include some inaccuracies.
Josh: 00:24-00:57 Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I’m your host, Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest, we have Laura Posey. Laura is an internationally recognized speaker, author and consultant. Her simple strategic plan is used by over 2,500 companies from startups to Fortune 100. She is the author of “How to Plan your Entire Year on One Sheet of Paper”, and co-author with Jack Canfield of “Mastering the Art of Success”. All right, welcome to the show, Laura.
Laura: 00:58-00:59 Thanks for having me, Josh. Great to be here.
Josh: 01:00-01:09 I’m excited to. I’m gonna learn a lot. I got a whole page here waiting for. So, why don’t you tell us? How did you become an expert at strategic planning?
Laura: 01:10-03:44 Well, you know, like so many people, I became an expert in something because I needed it myself. I was running a sales training business with a business partner and I realized I was building something that I absolutely hated, like, I had a job, and no health benefits. I didn’t have all the benefits of a job, right? But I had a job like I did put on a suit and show up every day, and I hated it. My business partner and I were at odds all the time and so I did what every smart business owner does, when they get in that spot, I run away from home. And, I actually ran out to Sedona and decided to just kind of clear my head. I thought, you know what, I gotta figure out how to get a job and how to close this business. So, I went on this hike, up to Cathedral rock, and I’ll spare you all the gory details, but I almost died on that hike and finally got up to the top of Cathedral rock. And as I, you know, the adrenaline sort of left my system, I thought, what the hell just happened here, right? Like, what happened, and it’s just it all of a sudden, you know, you have those moments where you just totally get it and I realized, the whole reason I got in trouble on the hike was because I just got up and went hiking. I didn’t take a map, I didn’t do any planning, I didn’t do anything. I just went on a hike. I’m like, I’m smart. I’m in shape. I can do this and it occurred to me that that was exactly what I did with my business. And, I thought, “Oh, I know how to sell, I know how to be a good salesperson, I’ve been a sales manager, I can run a sales training company” and I was just winging it, so I ended up with something I hated. So, I went back from that. I calmed down Cathedral rock and went back to my hotel, and I made my first plan. I did all his research, and I found all these, these plans. I thought, you know, I get too much bright shiny object syndrome, I’m not even going to complete the course, to get this plan done. And, I was like, it’s just gonna be one sheet of paper, what needs to go on this thing? So, I just started putting together and it worked for me. I went home and bought out my business partner and cleaned up all the mess, and started building a business that I love. Then when I was working with my clients, I sort of asked them, “What are you doing? What are you working on? And what are you trying to get to?” And they’re like, “Wow, I don’t know, I just want to grow”. I was like, what I got this plan. Let me say it worked for me. Let me see if it’ll work for you. And my very first client grew 65%, his first year. He went from and he added 650,000 to his million dollar business and he grew 400% in three years. So I thought, maybe I’m onto something here and I’ve never looked back. It’s the thing I love doing more than anything.
Josh: 03:45-04:06 Wow, I love it and for those of you who are near Sedona, I go there pretty regularly because these rocks are a great hike at beautiful sunsets. They’re awesome. Well, that’s cool, and you survived it too. So, let’s get into the actual one page plan because we’re believers in the one page, we do a one page strategic objective. So, tell us how, how do you create one? What are the steps?
Laura: 04:07-07:10 So, I always think that it’s easy to explain it if you think about how you would build a house. Right? So, if you’re gonna build your dream house, you start with a picture in your mind and an idea of all the things that you want. Like, you know, what kind of style is it going to be? It’s gonna be traditional, modern? How many bedrooms? How many bathrooms? Open floor plan going to have a pool? Like you get really jazzed about exactly what you’re going to build and then you go meet with an architect, and you put together a drawing of the house. Right? And, what’s the inside gonna look like? What’s the outside look gonna look like? And then from that drawing, you work with a draftsperson to create the blueprint and the blueprint is all the details of how we’re going to build this thing, right? Where are all the lights which are going to go and that sort of stuff? And from the blueprint, you can create a punch list and a punch list is just the big long list of every little thing that’s got to get done and who’s going to do it, and when is it going to happen? So, make sure that you have a foundation and walls before you bring the roofer in. And, when you have that, then you can either go out and work on the house yourself, or you can hire a bunch of people to build it for you. In the case of a house, most of the time, you’re hiring a bunch of really low wage people, and they can build a multi million dollar house for you. It’s the same thing with your business, so to do a one page plan, you want to start with that vision. What is it that you really want to build and get crystal clear about the type of business that you want to build and we usually start with a life vision. It’s like, okay, how do you want to live, and then let’s build a business that delivers that to you. And, so from the vision in your head, we can put that down on a piece of paper, we also like to put your core values in there, right? That’s sort of the style of your business, if you will. And from there, we can start working on the blueprint piece of it, where we back down from the vision, which is usually about 10 years out. We look at where do you want to be in three years? We call those three year targets? Where are you going to be at the end of one year, and there’re your one year goals? The difference between targets and goals is that targets are things you’re aiming for and goals are commitments. And then, we look at what are the things that you need to do on a weekly basis to keep building and growing the business? Right? So what is the stuff that has to get done every week, that is going to take you from where you are to where you want to be. And then we look at what are all the projects that have to get done? What are the changes that have to happen in this business, in order for you to create, that higher income, that higher profit, more free time, whatever it is. And then, we also add in some mantras, because those help you keep motivated and we put all that on a single sheet of paper. So, that’s really your blueprint. And then, once you have those projects, you can chunk them down into tasks and they go on what we call a daily success checklist, so that your tasks get transferred over there. So you’re working on the right things every day to build your business.
Josh: 07:11-07:16 So, do you size two fonts or size one font? To go seven on page?
Laura: 07:17-08:40 The cool thing, right? Like, for the folks that can see the video, I’ll show you what it looks like. So, the way it works is we actually don’t give you the template, because we don’t want you to do that. So, what we do is we have you actually go fill your answers in on the form and it stucks it into the template and formats, it makes it look beautiful and there the form is programmed for a 12 point font. So, one of the things that we’ve learned over years and years of doing this is that by having this template, by forcing you into this format and having these constraints, right? You get no more than four goals, you get no more than 16 projects for the year. Right? By having those constraints, it forces you to prioritize. You can’t just put down everything. You have to sit down and evaluate and go what’s really important to me, what do I really care about? I was talking to Melanie Benson yesterday and she said, “Yeah, it’s the difference between what you are committed to and what you are interested in”. So, this forces you to get to the commitments, and I was working with a client today and we were looking at her one year goals and she had three of them. And, she’s like, “Yeah, not really sure what the fourth one is”, and like, then you don’t have one, it’s okay. You can just have three and she’s like, “Really? I guess that box can be empty”. It’s okay.
Josh: 08:41-09:19 That’s great! I mean, you really put a lot of thinking into making this not only broad enough to excite somebody about the future, but also tactical enough to actually be usable on one sheet, so I’m pretty interested about this. Now, the one thing that left me exploring a little bit is, this life vision first is that, so recycle listening to this, they might think, you know, I just care about growing sales, you know, I’ve got this carwash or I have this restaurant as sales is important. Who cares about my life vision? How do you convince them that actually having that life isn’t first matter?
Laura: 09:20-10:49 Well, I think it’s, you know, I always ask people, like, why are you running a business? Right? And everybody always says the same thing. There’s always some lifestyle that they want behind the business, you know, like, “Oh, I want to sell it”. I’m like, “Great” and then what I call them, I take the money, I’m gonna do all these things. So, I’m like, well, why are you gonna wait to do those things? Because you don’t know, you have no idea how long you have. Right? And I have a deeply personal story about that. My partner passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. And I, you know, I feel fortunate that I had a plan in place that I could just hand over to my team and they just ran the plan. I got to stay home and be a caregiver. Right? But we had lots of plans to do a lot of things that we didn’t get to do, so you have no idea, as one of the oncology nurses said, “Everybody has a clock that’s ticking, the difference is when you get cancer, you can hear it”. And so everybody listening to this call has a clock, you just can’t hear it. So, figuring out like, what do you want in your life, what’s really important to you? Right? And put money in their mind, money is great money buys lots of really cool stuff for you and for your family but if you’re just working to have something to do, because you’re bored, man, you need to go for a hike at Cathedral rock and get your shit together.
Josh: 10:50-11:06 Though, that’s for sure what that story. I’m really sorry to hear that. But I think it’s important to hear that, there is that clock, and you don’t want to just blow away 10-20-30 years and then be like, oh, why am I doing this?
Laura: 11:07-11:10 Right! Nobody ever gets to their deathbed and says, “God, I wish I’d worked more”.
Josh: 11:14-11:53 Definitely. So, you get this big vision, and you get your core values and then you mentioned the blueprint, 10 years, 3 years target goals. Now, that’s a target, that’s a chunk of time and thinking to do that. What is for those math people, is the ROI of doing one of these things because someone might say, you know what, that sounds great, you know, dreaming, I just wanna make some sales and make some sales next month or next week. Cash Flow is tight. I just want to let you know, Laura, can you give me the tactic to make sales tomorrow? How do you convince them that actually thinking big is more profitable than just thinking tomorrow?
Laura: 11:54-13:47 So, first of all, I would call bullshit on just thinking about sales, because who gives a crap what you make, it’s all about what you keep. And, it’s what you keep in terms of time, and it’s worth what you keep in terms of money. And like, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about the top line. I’ve seen so many dead broke $50 million businesses, it would make your head spin. So, it doesn’t matter like who cares. If you’re not making good sales, if you’re not making profitable sales, you’re not growing your business in a way that it’s saleable, you’re wasting your time, you might as well just go get a job, just go get a sales job, work for somebody else, make sales all day, if that’s what you care about. But if you really want to build an asset and build a profitable asset, you’ve got to take time to sit back and plan. It’s like, you know, it’s sort of the business equivalent of saying, “Hey, I got a pile of money, you know, let me run down to Home Depot and just buy a bunch of crap and start building a house”. Right? Yeah, you’re building, you’re busy, you’re working on your house, but it’s going to be garbage. Right? Take the time to put the plan together and the plan just doesn’t take that long. Right? When you’re the first time you go through it. Right? Because you got to learn the process, right? You got to budget about four hours to do the plan and then you’re going to spend about an hour a quarter updating it. The second time you do it, it’s going to take you about an hour to do the annual plan and it’ll take you about a half an hour every quarter. So, if you don’t have two and a half hours a year to work on your business? Then I do that? Why are you in business, like seriously? I mean, two and a half hours a year. Everybody, just turn off Facebook for an afternoon, you got two and a half hours.
Josh: 13:48-13:53 Wow, that sounds like a really, that’s not much time.
Laura: 13:54-13:55 It’s not.
Josh: 13:56 It’s no.
Laura: 13:57-14:35 Again, if you keep things simple, and you put constraints on things, and you force the prioritization, it is simple and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s when you try to do everything all at once and it’s like, I’ve seen plans that are like a big thick notebook. And I’m like, who’s going to use that? I use my plan every single day. It sits here. It’s for people that have videos like, here it isn’t, this is the front. This is my business plan. This is my personal plan. I said, here’s my daily success checklist, like it’s easy. It’s right there.
Josh: 14:36-15:04 So I’m thinking of the A-D-D shiny object entrepreneur, which a lot of them are, and they’re thinking, well, gosh, I just don’t like the idea of being held back by this plan. I like the ability or being held accountable to the plan. The idea of reacting and seeing opportunities and going places and being bold and this sounds like you know, just too formal for me. I don’t know what would you say to someone like that?
Laura: 15:05-16:48 So, you know, the A-D-D bright shiny object thing, that is a great mindset for starting a business. It’ll kill you’re trying to grow and run a business. The folks that succeed are not the ones that just go out and chase every bright, shiny thing because what happens is you never finish anything. So, what we tell folks is like, pick what you’re going to work on and get it done and when what’s on your plan is done, if there’s other stuff that you want to go out and do, those great opportunities, great, go do them when you’ve got your plan stuff done. It’s actually the process that Walt Disney used. So Disney was a great idea guy, as we know and the problem was, he’s such a great idea, guy, he never got anything done. Until his brother Roy came into the business, and so Roy came into the business and he said, “Well, you got brilliant ideas, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to write them all down and every time you have a new one, write it down and put it in this folder”. So Walt had a big fat idea folder and Roy would go through the folder, he would find that the idea that was the most viable, and he would pull it out and go, okay, we’re going to execute on this, we’re going to go do this thing and when this is done, we’re going to go back in the folder, and we’re going to get some new stuff. So I told my client, just work the plan, what didn’t and all those beautiful ideas that you have put them on a piece of paper called NOT NOW, and when you’re done with your plan, go to your NOT NOW list and what you’re going to find is that about 90% of the stuff on your not now list is garbage. And you’re going to look at it go “Oh, thank God, I didn’t do that man. That was stupid”. Right? Or you’re going to look at it and you’re gonna go, Oh, yeah, like, I know, people that did that and it was a total failure and like what a waste of time and to stick to the plan.
Josh: 16:49-17:13 That’s true. That’s great. That’s great advice. So, let’s say you’ve looked at a lot of strategies now and I’m going to ask two different questions about this. The first one being, what are some telltale signs when you look at someone’s strategy and you know what? That’s a winning strategy and they’re going to have success with it and you feel confident? Like, do you have any kind of like, Is there some kind of magic you see in it that, you know, it’s going to be actually a workable strategy?
Laura: 17:14-18:35 So that, you know, as they say, the devil is in the details, so the clearer the vision is, the more measurable it is, the clearer the targets and goals are and the more measurable they are, the more likely it is that that person is going to succeed. I see it over and over and over that I just got off a call with a client and she had some really great goals in there, she had some revenue goals. She wanted to bring on some new partners to deliver some of the content for her, so she had some really good measurable goals in there. And then, she had some junk in there, like, be a thought leader, I’m like, well, what does that look like? How are you going to know when you’re a thought leader? She’s like, well, people are going to come to me, I’m like, so you’re going to get referrals? She’s like, yeah, that’s part of it. I’m like, Okay, well, you could make referrals do you want, like, that can be a goal. Okay, like, what else? She’s like, well, I’m gonna, like, people are gonna see my stuff everywhere I go, where do you want them to see it? Just like, Oh, I do like one of those LinkedIn courses. I want LinkedIn to call me and do a course I’m like, great. That’s clear. That’s specific, we can make that happen.
Josh: 18:36-19:00 That’s great. So, that the answer is set as thought leader, it’s to make a LinkedIn course and then you can start taking the steps to do that and that would never equate to thought leadership. Now, that’s great. That’s great advice. And, I’m sure that’s part of your deal that writes, look at these things, and then say, hey, this is not clear, this is not gonna happen, this has no deadline, this is just
Laura: 19:01 All day, every day.
Josh: 19:02 Every day. Okay.
Laura: 19:03-19:20 It’s hard to, you know, it’s hard to see your own stuff, right? Like, you write it down, because you feel like it’s right but then, when somebody who’s got, you know, 20 years of experience looks at it, they go, well, what about this? And you just sort of go, right?
Josh: 19:21-19:58 Well, so help me out, so be my consultant right now and this might embarrass me, but that’s okay because you’re a pro with it. So I’m certifying consultants right now. Right? And so we were like, tested out, we got a bunch people certified right now and we’re gonna scale it. So, if you are me, would you say, we are going to certify this many consultants as like the number to hit? Or would you say we’re going to certify the most consultants? Or would you say, we’re going to get consultants to get the best result? Or our consultants gonna make the most amount of money or just generically, our consultants do a great job? Like, how would you tailor that?
Laura: 19:59-20:15 So I would sit back and go oh, what you’re trying to accomplish with these consultants is you want to make some money, right? Because they sell stuff and you get a piece, right? So I would define how much revenue you want to get from your consultants.
Josh: 20:16 Okay. All right.
Laura: 20:17-20:21 That might be what you’re really trying to accomplish, who cares how many consultants you have?
Josh: 20:22-20:27 A part of it is I want them. So the best way for me to get more consultants is for them to have the most success as consultants,
Laura: 20:28-21:01 Right. So go get three and make them super successful and make all three of them glowing testimonials. Then, go turn three into 10 and 10 into 50, because if you bring in 50, you’re gonna, you’re gonna fall into 80/20, right? You’re gonna have 20% of people who are abject failures, 60% of them are going to be mediocre and 20% of them are going to kill it and you’re going to spend all of your time with the bottom 80%. And they’re gonna suck the life out of you.
Josh: 21:02-21:05 Some of you have some personal stories about this effort.
Laura: 21:06-22:12 I have a lot of clients who have done bad things. I mean, it’s what we say in sales in general, it’s like, look, your client base falls into 20-60-20, right? So spend all your time trying to clone the top 20%, automate the middle 60% and fire the bottom 20% and if 20% of your people are giving you 80% of your money, if all you do is clone them every year, you can grow 80% every year and the cool thing is that top keeps getting bigger, right? Because your best clients, no other best clients, good people hang out with good people, successful people hang out with successful people. So, don’t ignore everybody else, but fire the bottom 20% because they’re all your customer service problems. They’re the ones that you can’t help, just let them go get their money back, send them someplace else, automate the middle 60% or outsource the middle 60%, hire somebody else to work with them and then you spend your time with the top 20% getting them amazing results. And they’re gonna refer people to you like crazy.
Josh: 22:12-22:20 It’s very good. That’s way more clear than just getting the most people certified is not really, that’s nothing.
Laura: 22:21-22:52 Right? That’s just a lot of work for no benefit. Like you always have to eat again, it kind of goes back to like, you know, what are you really trying to accomplish here, it goes back to that vision. It’s like, oh, we want to have an X million dollar X billion dollar company, whatever. Right? With this much free time, we want to serve these markets, and we want to get these kinds of results and, you know, that’s why we sort of have an eight point framework for figuring out visions. But, when you get super clear about that, then what to do is really easy.
Josh: 22:53-23:19 Okay, so this is where I can see it really would say people time is then what is clear, and simple and easy and that’s where you can get to the major, the major gains. Well, then let me give you the reverse question. So, what are some telltale signs this is going to be really, I see was bad. So, the vice versa? The question: what is a really good strategy? or what is a bad strategy?
Laura: 23:20-24:55 So, it’s typically a couple of things. One is really vague. Okay, right? Like, we want a big company, we want people to be happy. I’m like, look who’s happy? Like, what does that mean? Like they’re happy because you’re paying them a lot, they’re happy because the office isn’t too cold, like, happy is it? So really vague, they’re very general. The other one is that they’re too broad, like they’re trying to serve everybody under the sun and do everything they’re like. We want people to buy ice cream and shoes from us and like, really, that’s your plan? Ice cream and shoes? You know, I’m thinking ice cream and flip flops, but like it’s just the stuff that people come up with they sort of had these competing demands and it’s like okay, you can have multiple products and you can be in multiple industries or multiple verticals but you want to build things so that they build on top of each other, right? Take the expertise from product one and leverage it to product two and also leverage the same market like if you’ve got a bunch of people that bought product one and they love you, right? Find products to sell to those same people and don’t try to build a new market. Right? Like that’s just way too much work. I mean, you’re just like you’re not GE and you’re not gonna be and quite honestly she’s not that successful now either, because they diversified too much.
Josh: 24:56-25:05 Yes. Definitely. And that goes back to your initial point, which is, what do you keep? What’s the bottom line? Not just sales.
Laura: 25:06-25:09 It doesn’t matter what you sell or it looks like..
Josh: 25:10-25:33 And you’d have I both could share stories of big companies that I make more money than them. They got 1000 plus. So, that’s good. Well, let’s, because time is really short and I got a couple questions left. What’s one thing that I didn’t ask you about but I should have that you want to leave the audience with?
Laura: 25:34-26:32 I love that question and I had a really good answer for it. I totally forgot what it was, you know, I think the biggest question I get is, like, I’m a creative person. Like, I have a lot of clients who are like web designers and marketing consultants, and they’re in some way, I have clients who are artists, and they’re like, I just don’t think I can plan. I’ve never planned anything before. How can I do this? And what they find is that when they actually take the time and put the plan together, that it makes the running of the business, so much easier that it frees up their energy to be even more creative. So they’re able to put that structure around the growth of the business. I mean, you know, this from the work that you do, when you put that structure in place, and you don’t have to focus on that all the time. All that brainpower is freed up to do really cool creative, amazing things.
Josh: 26:33-26:38 Wow. Okay, so there’s there’s freedom found when there’s less chaos?
Laura: 26:39 Yeah, absolutely.
Josh: 26:42-26:50 Well, very cool. I really enjoyed a lot of this interview, Laura, where can people find more about you and to get help with their strategy.
Josh: 26:51-27:57 So one of the things I like to get people started with is I like them to start using the daily success checklist, because it’s the simplest tool to get started and really get focused. So I put together a daily success, checklist kit. So I’ve got a printable version of it, I’ve got a fillable pdf, if you’d like to, if you’re a typing sort of person and you like stuff on your screen, I put together some samples for folks, so they can see what it looks like and then I put together a tutorial video that kind of walks through each section and how to use it and they can get that @simplesuccessplans.com/daily and they can download the whole kit and that’s a great place to get started because if they do that, and they like that, they’re going to be like, “Oh, yeah, this is awesome”. And then, obviously, if they just go to our homepage, there’s a Learn More button and they can, you know, do an online course they can do the group coaching that we do, they can do one-on-one, there’s lots of different ways to interact.
Josh: 27:58-29:18 Awesome. Wow, well, this sounds really powerful and I probably will take you up on one of those offers, you just mentioned that because having perspective on your own business is virtually impossible to do and is so essential. So, if you are going to find someone to consult with and help you on things, you want a marketing consultant or an attorney or whatever, but a happiness strategist with you, is worth the weight and gold. So, people make sure to check out what Laura just said, which is simplesuccessplans.com/daily for more information. And Laura, again, I appreciate you sharing your wisdom on this podcast, very helpful and thanks, everybody who’s tuned in today, if you want to hear another expert like Laura, then stay tuned next week, we’re going to be sharing with you to the podcast or maybe one of my previous clients, or maybe one of my consultants sharing with you how you can make more, work less. Then also, you want a copy of that book right there behind me, Work the System, you can get a free download @workthesystem.com. And then we’ll of course give you some other tools and resources and if you want a free copy of that book mailed to you, then leave us a review, wherever you’re watching this or listening. Leave us a review, comment, take a screenshot, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then we will mail out a copy of the book. We mail it once a week and so you can do that. Otherwise, Laura again, thanks. And we’ll see you all next week.
Laura: 29:19 Thanks for having me.
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